Whistler’s Tyler Morland came into the Canadian National Downhill Championships hoping to be the first downhiller to defend his title in at least a decade but was thwarted by the consistent, all-out riding of Victoria’s Andrew Mitchell (no relation to author). In the process Mitchell also edged out several top local contenders who were more familiar with the course.
While flat tires and mechanicals took their toll on some of the top riders on the field, Mitchell made the final GLC drop with more than enough time to bump Morland from the hot seat and take the national downhill title. Mitchell’s final time was 3:06.35, more than three seconds faster than Morland’s 3:09.42.
Friends and family members lined up to hug the 18-year-old Mitchell, who placed second in the nationals last year in the Junior Expert category.
"It feels pretty good," he said of winning the national title. "I was just hoping my wheel would stay together to end of the race."
Mitchell said he was having issues with his front wheel after Saturday’s practice, and his team mechanic gave him a replacement about 10 minutes before he had to head up on Sunday for his run. "We didn’t have the proper air gauge when we were filling it up so we just guessed," he said.
About part-way through his run he noticed the wheel had picked up a wobble, and by the finish line it was officially "taco’d" – so warped out of shape it was beyond repair.
Mitchell says he only makes it to Whistler about once or twice a year to ride the bike park, but likes the course.
"I was feeling very confident in the training, and feel I came into the race strong," he said. "Then I had the fastest qualifier, so I knew I was on the right line, although it’s always possible that somebody saw something you didn’t, and some parts were so loose that you were just holding on anyway."
The only time Mitchell felt out of control was heading into the second wood sections. It took his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dark after racing in an open, sunny area and the first few turns were on off-camber roots.
"That was the hardest part for me, but I knew from training that I just had to hold it together going in and then everything would be okay."
Both Morland and Mitchell race for the Cove Bikes/Sram team, which placed two other riders in the top-10 on Sunday. The North Vancouver-based team also earned a podium in the elite women’s event.